Arts Campus News

Author shares the music and mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton

Col. Bruce Hampton was an enigmatic musical figure who launched and continued to influence the jam band genre over his more than 50 years performing. Part bandleader, soul singer, storyteller, conjuror, poet, preacher, comedian, philosopher and trickster, Hampton actively sought out and dealt in the strange, wild underbelly of the American South.

“The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton” isn’t a true biography in the Boswellian sense, nor a work of cultural studies, but it does combine elements of both. This life history of Hampton reads like a novel—one full of astonishing stories of a musical life lived, both on and off the road.

Jerry Grillo’s fascinating interviews with Hampton and his bandmates, fans, family and friends paint a captivating portrait of an artist who cultivated some of the best music ever played in the United States. Grillo aims not so much to document and elucidate the self-mythologizing performer as to explain why his fans and friends loved him so dearly.

Grillo leaves no stone unturned: Hampton’s family history, his place in both Atlanta and southeastern musical history, his noteworthy friendships and musical relationships and the controversies over his Hampton Grease Band personnel are all discussed. The result is a portrait of a P.T. Barnum of the musical world, but one who included his audience and invited them through the tent door to share his inside joke with plenty of joy to go around.